The mainland has the perfect ingredients for efficient public transport: many large cities with high population densities. Ideally, investing in bus and rail systems should pay off handsomely. Yet authorities are insisting on pouring resources into the already massive car industry, and generous incentives mean that cars are cheap to buy. Consequently, roads are day by day becoming ever more choked by traffic, and the pall of pollution from exhaust fumes is worsening. Governments are in a bind. Roads cannot be built fast enough to keep up with vehicle numbers. Subways and elevated rail networks take time to plan and build. Outright bans are, in the absence of an alternative, not a solution. The search for efficient and non-polluting transport that can be quickly put in place has been made a priority. Guangzhou and Shenzhen several years ago determined that motorbikes were too noisy and dirty. A Guangzhou lawmaker has stirred debate by suggesting that people turn to bicycles. It is surely the irony of all ironies that a nation that for three decades has so successfully pushed bicycles off the streets in the name of progress would even consider a return to pedal power. Conflicting interests are difficult for any government to deal with. In the mainland's case, it involves balancing a policy of using vehicle production to boost industrial growth with ensuring that cities are liveable and function properly. The car industry is the catalyst for a plethora of spin-off industries that boost job creation, meet consumer demand and lay the groundwork for export markets. But cities are where factories, offices and workers are located and they need to be efficient and safe. Without concerted long-term planning, there will always be an unhappy meeting of the two. Road-pricing schemes, higher fuel emission standards and transport infrastructure are the obvious way forward. But such measures require discussion, planning and time to implement. In the circumstances, with air pollution and traffic woes becoming ever more pressing problems, turning back the clock to the days when the bicycle was king on the mainland may, for now, be the best idea.